Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach again hosted its annual Startup Summit, the university’s top student business venture competition, which resulted in a first-place tie in the event’s grand finale.
MSU’s two grand prize recipients are Shuvam Saha, an engineering doctoral student from Kolkata, India, and Stone Vincent, a fashion design and merchandising master’s student from Bolton. Each receiving a $5,000 award, the contestants were judged across five divisions.
With teams from nearly every college on campus, students vied for cash prizes totaling $36,000 of seed capital funding to get their startup businesses off the ground. Business model pitches were evaluated on company technology, management, financials and market by top industry leaders from across the region serving as judges.
Saha’s business venture, Triton Aerospace, creates drones, modular hydrogen fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, for commercial and military use. Rather than frequently used battery-powered UAVs, which limit flight time and extend charging periods, Saha’s UAVs provide extended range and stronger battery life.
Vincent’s startup, Mycelium Leather, which also won the People’s Choice award, develops entirely biodegradable, sustainable, vegan leathers consisting of mycelium, the vegetative body of fungi that produces mushrooms. To make the leather an ideal alternative to current leather products, Vincent uses naturally stable, scratch-resistant and hydrophobic materials that can be grown more efficiently and with fewer resources than competitors.
Saha called his experience at the Startup Summit “simply outstanding.”
“Triton participated in the Summit to get valuable feedback from experienced judges. The exposure to successful entrepreneurs and fellow startups was quite excellent,” Saha said. “We learned a lot from this event, and winning first prize was just icing on the cake.”
The second-place prize was awarded to Christopher T. Nalls, a senior marketing major from North Carrollton for The Mississippi Hat Company, a startup selling custom women’s hats such as church headdresses and fascinators. Another tie resulted in the third-place finish for Alyssa M. Olive, an educational leadership master’s student from Kosciusko for oLive Juicery LLC, a business selling fruit and vegetable juices made strictly from produce, and James A. Watters, a senior computer science major from Edwardsville, Illinois, for Answers Analytics, an offline digital resource to record real-time sport analytics and data visualization.
According to the Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Outreach Eric Hill, three judges committed approximately $6,000 additional prize money to help fund the five highest-placing projects, due to ties at first and third place and the high-quality presentation of viable business plans.
After canceling last year’s summit due to the pandemic, a record number of participants entered this year, including 46 teams along with 35 more for the elevator pitch, a 60-90 second proposal without any audience preparation.